Any cook knows that the dish is only as good as the ingredients. Short cuts or missed items as part of the recipe preparation can lead to disastrous results when it comes time for the taste test. It should come as no surprise to anyone with even a casual interest in the news business that what serves as the main course is suffering greatly. The recent Pew Research Center Study on the State of the Media continues to reflect the continued decline of local news. What strikes me the most when I check the local newspaper website is the lack of news. Not coincidentally this was the same reason I gave for letting my subscription for home delivery expire a few years ago. It wasn’t worth the effort to find and retrieve the paper wherever it happened to land after being pitched from a moving car.
Local television news suffered a reversal of fortune in 2012, losing audience in every key time slot, including those that gained viewers the year before. In most nontraditional time slots, viewership stagnated. And the total audience for all local news programs combined was smaller than the year before. The strategy of gaining viewers by adding more and more time for news appears to have stopped paying off. –Pew-Local TV
It baffles me that there is only one commercial radio station in Springfield, MA (where I sit writing this blog) that has a ‘news department’. It is a department of one. The so-called information age has become a news dessert. The traditional driver of local news, print journalism, has become a sea of empty desks in the wake of lay-offs and attrition. Those lucky enough to find employment at the local broadsheet are handed a part-time ‘opportunity’. Once the thrill of being a journalist is met with the need to meet rent, a car payment and eat, the stark realization sets in that this career is not the path to the American dream. Local television is no better. Not only do reporters have to report, they also must act as the camera operator making sure they get the shot. One person doing two jobs is not the way to get the story, you’ll get a story, a lot will be missed.
The bottom line according to Pew is that media consumers are noticing the rotting potatoes and rancid meat in their news stew and are heading for the door. Fewer consumers translates to advertisers looking to spend their money elsewhere. Public television and radio may possibly benefit. Over the last several years my consumption of public radio has increased because it is the last bastion of intelligent local news. They actually have reporters and actualities! Public TV has in-depth reporting of national and world news. You may wonder about the cable news outlets, the trend here is more talk and less news. Pew says that about a third of people abandoned a news source because it provided a too little information. Nothing could be more damning than serving up such a thin broth.